Politics

Councilwoman Lynne Nowick, second from left, sits at the table with advisory board members pictured left to right, Lucille DeFina, Diane Madden and Elizabeth Stein. File photo

The Smithtown Animal Shelter’s inaugural advisory council has called it quits.

It has been about eight months since Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) rolled out the panel of animal welfare experts, geared toward moving the town’s shelter forward, but those same experts spoke before the Smithtown Town Board last Thursday night, accusing Nowick of failing them as the shelter’s government liaison. Animal welfare attorney Elizabeth Stein read a letter she had sent to the board on Sept. 15, calling out Nowick for failing to serve as a bridge between the animal experts and elected town officials concerning one of the advisory group’s biggest points: hiring an animal behaviorist at an annual salary of $45,000 to train the eight dogs being housed there.

“We reassured the public, on countless occasions, that we were not on the advisory council as window dressing and that we would never compromise what we felt was necessary to protect the animals,” Stein said. “We were told the town council was supportive of our efforts, and were promised the council’s full cooperation. These promises were empty and the cooperation was never forthcoming.”

Stein said the experts were adamant about having an animal behaviorist working with the shelter dogs on a regular basis to address behavioral issues so they can find homes, but were stonewalled due to fiscal constraints.

In response, Nowick said she had brought the recommendation to the town attorney and comptroller, but had put it on hold when Susan Hansen took over for the retired George Beatty as shelter director in August.

“I did start the process of trying to get a behaviorist. We tried almost everything,” Nowick said in response to the advisory council resignations. “We talked item-for-item and decided to wait and see what the new director of the shelter wanted for the position.”

Stein and her former panel members, animal welfare experts Lucille DeFina and Diane Madden, said they had brought a potential candidate forward who was willing to take on the behaviorist role on a full-time basis. Nowick said she could not yet iron out a full-time contract due to fiscal constraints, but reiterated her commitment to the position by exploring if it could be done on a volunteer basis instead.

“A behaviorist is necessary to make the shelter a progressive, no-kill shelter,” Madden said to the board last Thursday night. “When you have a 2016 budget that has cuts and making do with what you have, you’re not going in the right direction.”

Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) told the animal experts that it was the first he had heard of their recommendation to install a behaviorist. In his remarks, the councilman said he felt it was unfair for the panel to place blame on the town board as a whole if Nowick was not communicating their concerns to her colleagues.

“I object to the finger being pointed at me,” he said. “There has never been a discussion by this board involving these recommendations at any time that I’m aware of. Perhaps this board should cease-and-desist doing business like that.”

That news left DeFina stunned.

“I cannot believe my ears, because Lynne Nowick was supposed to be the liaison, and she put together this committee and I watched her for months and months on the video tape at home, bragging about how great we were and all the wonderful things we did,” she said. “To find out that the board knows nothing about our requests for a trainer, which we were all asking for from day one — it’s hard to accept.”

At the end of the meeting, Hansen mentioned some of the improvements at the shelter she and her staff were ushering in, including a new dog-walking plan and training program for volunteers, while acknowledging that it was only the beginning of progress.

Group criticizes amendment aimed at two-family homes

Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards. File photo by Rohma Abbas

A representative of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition blasted a proposal from Councilwoman Tracy Edwards (D) at a public hearing last week that would add requirements to creating two-family homes.

The law, if approved, would transform the process to create a two-family home in the R-5 Residence District from one that’s as-of-right — not requiring any planning or zoning board review — to one that requires a special-use permit from the Huntington Town Zoning Board of Appeals.

The ZBA would then review the application on a number of criteria and would also consider community input. Those criteria include aesthetics, like ensuring the house looks like a single-family home of no more than two stories, and restricting features, like exposed cellars, large attics, tall roofs, multiple driveways and decks, and prominent secondary entrances, according to the proposed law.

The owner would also have to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the board that he or she would sustain “severe hardship” if the application was denied and that the hardship wasn’t self-created.

Roger Weaving, who spoke on behalf of the coalition, said, on Sept. 16, that the group was strongly opposed to the legislation. In a statement opining on the law, the coalition criticized the current requirements governing two-family home creation as well, calling them “so restrictive as to virtually exclude two-family homes from being created in Huntington.”

“Not only is the resolution arbitrary, it perpetuates racial and class segregation in Huntington, without purpose other than to exclude new people,” Weaving said.

Weaving also said that the proposed amendment includes arbitrary and vague language. It claims two-family homes should look like single family homes, but there’s no specificity on what a single family home should look like.

The proposal said the dwelling should be at least five years of age, but the coalition called this requirement “arbitrary and without purpose other than to exclude two-family homes in Huntington.” Also, the amendment doesn’t describe what constitutes a severe hardship.

The coalition and Weaving claimed the law doesn’t jive with the overall mission to create affordable housing in town for the community’s young people. Two-family homes offer lower rents, and the lower cost of living “allows young people to create a work/life balance, save some hard-earned dollars, and eventually & hopefully set down roots here in Huntington.”

Edwards couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday — her aide said she was traveling. But in prior interviews, the councilwoman has said her main thrust in introducing the law was to give neighbors the chance to comment on such projects, as current town code doesn’t require it. She was inspired to create this law after speaking with a Greenlawn resident who came home one day surprised to find a two-family home in the community.

“You shouldn’t be able to go to work one day thinking that the house being built next to you is a single family and come home from work and find it’s a two-family house,” Edwards said. “Intuitively, that just doesn’t sound like something we want to do.”

Creating sound regulations and requirements for non-single family homes is “appropriate and necessary,” the coalition stated in the letter, and requiring notification of neighbors “makes sense.” But “requiring a five-year wait period and demonstration of a ‘severe hardship’ make no sense.”

The public hearing was closed.

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Smithtown Town Hall. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Smithtown Town Board candidates vying for a Republican spot on the ballot in November learned their fate on Tuesday as the Suffolk County Board of Elections tallied up the remaining absentee ballots, but there were no surprises.

As reported last week, Councilman Bob Creighton (R) came in third place out of three candidates seeking the Republican line in November’s general election, while the other two, incumbent Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) and challenger Lisa Inzerillo came in first and second, respectively. Those results stood by Tuesday evening, but perhaps in a more disappointing fashion, as Creighton’s 1,306 vote tallies came in just 82 votes behind Inzerillo’s 1,388, the county Board of Elections said. Wehrheim led the pack with 1,830 votes.

In the initial aftermath of the primary vote earlier this month, Wehrheim had collected 40.49 percent of the vote — 1,673 total votes — and Inzerillo earned 31.27 percent, or 1,292 total votes. Creighton, who has served on the Town Board since 2008, came in close behind Inzerillo with 27.81 percent — 1,149 votes. In an interview after the primary election and before the absentee ballots had been counted, Creighton told Times Beacon Record Newspapers that he did not expect absentee votes to push him over the edge.

“There are still some … absentee ballots to count, but I have no illusions about that,” Creighton said in a previous interview. “I lost, period.”

Inzerillo and Wehrheim will appear on November’s ballot as Republicans, and Creighton will still run for re-election, but on the Conservative, Independent and Reform party lines.

Both Creighton’s and Wehrheim’s seats on the board will be up for a vote come November, with the incumbents facing off against Inzerillo and Democrat Larry Vetter, who announced his candidacy earlier this year. The winners will join incumbents not up for re-election, Supervisor Pat Vecchio, Councilman Tom McCarthy and Councilwoman Lynne Nowick — all Republicans.

Huntington Town Board members look over the budget. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) unveiled a $188.7 million preliminary 2016 budget on Wednesday that reduces spending slightly from this year and stays within a state-mandated cap on property tax levy increases.

If approved, the budget would amount to a $29 increase for the average homeowner, if looking only at the town’s three major funds. The budget is balanced by a 1.3-percent increase in the town’s tax levy, because Huntington is using fewer funds from reserves to balance the budget, according to a town statement.

The town board voted at a meeting on Wednesday to schedule an Oct. 6 public hearing on the budget. The public hearing will take place at 6 p.m.

The spending plan is a “no-frills” budget, which is down from this year’s spending by .2 percent, officials said. The budget would maintain current services and reflects a reduction in staffing through attrition —fewer than five employees due to some retirements in the town’s General Services department, Petrone told reporters after the meeting.

There’s $1.9 million more budgeted for the town’s Highway Department, due to last year’s severe winter. That increase was offset by little to no increase in other major town funds, and decreased spending in some of the special districts, a town statement said.

One of the issues the supervisor said he’s wrestling with is funding expenses taxpayers may want, but count against the municipality in its state tax levy increase cap calculations.

To that end, Petrone said officials have not included renewing a multi-million Open Space Bond Act town taxpayers vote in favor of to have the town fund green initiatives, park improvement and land purchases, because revenue raised through the acts counts into the town’s tax levy. Petrone also said that the town has been considering putting up a referendum to create a parking district, which could have the authority to sell bonds to fund a long-desired parking garage in Huntington village, but that would count against the town’s tax levy calculation.

Petrone said he’s been calling on state lawmakers to look at possible revisions to the tax cap law in cases where voters directly choose to tax themselves.

“This 2016 budget preparation presented challenges and realities that will alter how the town does business going forward, without important changes to the tax cap act,” Petrone wrote in his budget message. “While the tax cap act seeks to stabilize the tax base, it also limits our ability to enhance or expand services to our residents.”

Other highlights of the budget included freezing all salaries for elected officials and appointment management, continued focus on building a $1.5 million new animal shelter and implementing design and initial construction of the James D. Conte Community Center at the former Huntington Armory

The supervisor also proposed a $15 million capital budget that focused on improvements to the town’s infrastructure, such as the rehabilitation of various plants and pump stations in the Dix Hills Water District to headworks improvements in the Huntington Sewer District. Funding is also included for road rehabilitation, drainage infrastructure and paving, according to the statement.

Victoria Espinoza contributed reporting.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, above, speaks to local residents, business and organization members at “Meet Congressman Zeldin” on Wednesday, Sept. 16 in the Gillespie meeting room in the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages. Photo by Giselle Barkley

He’s new to D.C., but not to some of the North Shore’s most pressing issues.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) addressed people from Three Village businesses and organizations early Wednesday morning on Sept. 16 in his “Meet Congressman Zeldin” breakfast in the Gillespie meeting room in the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages. The meeting gave Zeldin the opportunity to discuss his past several months in office after he was sworn in back in January and to address issues he said he wants to tackle during his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Some of the more pressing issues, he said, included affordability, supporting local business owners and enhancing the quality of life for Long Islanders of the First Congressional District.

“We’re losing a lot of our friends and our family as our families get split apart moving down to North Carolina and South Carolina and Florida because they can’t afford to get by here,” Zeldin said while discussing Long Island’s cost of living and it’s impact on community members.

He added that some small business owners experienced or are going through tough times as they may struggle between paying their employees and paying their sales tax or other bills associated with their business.

“There needs to be a fundamental re-calibration and better understanding from different levels of government, as to how a small business is able to grow and create new jobs,” Zeldin said as a suggestion to help business stay afloat and create more jobs in the community.

He admitted that one piece of legislation would not be enough to address every business owners’ concerns or needs. As he continued discussing businesses and Long Island’s economy, Zeldin also voiced his opinion on U.S. President Barack Obama’s $15 minimum wage proposal saying that the increase is not nearly sufficient for Long Island residents — especially those who own homes and raise their family.

Long Island’s veteran population and education issues were also a topic of debate as Zeldin discussed his past eight months in congress. One of Zeldin’s first pieces of legislation to pass kept the government from financially penalizing states if schools wanted to withdraw from the controversial Common Core learning standards.

Throughout the breakfast, Zeldin emphasized that he is not the type of politician who will turn away from a difficult issue or decision. He acknowledged that making tough decisions may cost him votes, but he will support what he believes to be right for his community. The statement left those in attendance very pleased.

“I really feel like he listens to the issues that are going on at hand,” said Elizabeth Folk, owner and licensed acupuncturist and massage therapist at Hand on Health and Wellness in Stony Brook. “He seems very genuine with his speaking. I like the fact that he doesn’t care about the cost of losing his votes if it’s an issue that’s very important to him if [his opinion] is unpopular.”

Members of the museum said they agreed with Folk. Deirdre Doherty, director of development for the museum, said that Zeldin’s desire to improve the Long Island economy is not only genuine, but will also assist businesses like the museum.

“Museums go beyond just offering a cultural experience,” Doherty said. “They really have socially impactful programs. We educate over 12,000 students a year. So if the local businesses are healthy, then we can be healthy.”

Regina Miano, special events manager of the museum, said she thought Zeldin’s event was also a good way for Three Villagers to interact with Zeldin saying, “it was great to have him as a new congressman…to be here and speak at the museum…to introduce himself to people that have probably never spoken to him, [it was great].”

Zeldin also highlighted the importance of meet-and-greets with the voters such as these where residents can meet the political figures that are in charge of addressing their concerns and needs.

“Accessibility is important because as an elected representative, constituents need to know that the person they elect to office is representing their passion,” Zeldin said in an interview before the breakfast. “At the same time the elected official needs to be out in the public to listen so that he or she is as tuned in as possible to the top priorities of people elected to serve.”

North Shore natives travel to Washington with hopes of swaying lawmakers to renew health care benefits

John Feal speaks at the September 11 memorial ceremony in Commack last week. Photo by Brenda Lentsch

The 9/11 first responders who have fought for years to get health care support are heading back to Washington, D.C., in hopes of ushering in the renewal of the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act. And for one Nesconset resident, change cannot come soon enough.

Parts of the bill will expire next month, and other parts in October 2016.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act would extend the programs of the original Zadroga act indefinitely. It was introduced to Congress in April and currently has 150 bipartisan co-sponsors.

“When this bill expires, our illnesses do not expire,” said John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation, in a phone interview. Feal, of Nesconset, has been walking the halls of Congress for the past eight years to help get this bill passed.

He is also a 9/11 first responder who worked on the reconstruction at Ground Zero, and lost half of his foot in the process. He suffered from gangrene, but he says his injuries “pale in comparison to other first responders.”

President Barack Obama signed the current Zadroga act into law in 2011 and established the World Trade Center Health Program, which will expire in October if not renewed.

The WTC program ensured that those whose health was affected by 9/11 would receive monitoring and treatment services for their health-related problems. It consists of a responder program for rescue and recovery workers and New York City firefighters, and a survivor program for those who lived, worked or went to school in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Zadroga act also reopened the September 11th Victims Compensation Act, which allows for anyone affected to file claims for economic losses due to physical harm or death caused by 9/11. That will expire in October of next year.

Feal said he was asked by television personality Jon Stewart to come on “The Daily Show” in December 2010, but the Nesconset native said he did not want to leave the real legislative fight in D.C. Instead, he helped get four 9/11 responders to the Dec. 16, 2010, episode, who helped shed light on the ongoing battle these responders were dealing with in Congress.

“He was definitely one of the reasons the bill got passed,” Feal said of Stewart. Stewart accompanied Feal and many other first responders when they traveled to Washington, D.C, on Wednesday, Sept. 16, and took part in a mini rally.

The bill did not pass the first time it was presented to Congress back in 2006. A new version was drafted in 2010 and passed in the House of Representatives, but was having trouble getting through the Senate due to a Republican filibuster. The bill received final congressional approval on Dec. 22, 2010, and was enacted by the president on Jan. 2, 2011.

“As we get older these illnesses will become debilitating,” Feal said. “Not extending this bill is criminal. People will die without it. It’s a life-saving piece of legislation.”

Jennifer McNamara, a Blue Point resident and president of The Johnny Mac Foundation, is also actively involved in the fight to keep responders health costs covered. Her late husband, John McNamara, passed away in 2009 from stage IV colon cancer.

He was a New York City Firefighter and worked more than 500 hours at the World Trade Center in the aftermath of 9/11. He worked with responders to get support for the Zadroga bill before he died.

“I made him a promise to continue to lend support to get this legislation passed,” Jennifer McNamara said in a phone interview. When her husband passed away, she said there weren’t as many responders getting sick as there are now. “People are dying more quickly, and more are getting diagnosed with cancers and other illnesses.”

The two big issues that McNamara said she feels need to continue to be addressed are monitoring these diseases and coverage of costs once someone is diagnosed. McNamara said she believes that if there were better monitoring programs earlier on, her husband could’ve been diagnosed before his cancer was stage IV, and he could’ve had a better chance.

“These people did tremendous things for their country,” McNamara said. “They shouldn’t have to guess about whether they are going to be taken care of.”

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Smithtown Councilman Bob Creighton. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Thursday’s Republican primary in Smithtown saw an incumbent fall to the bottom of the pack in the town board race, but only by a slim margin.

Councilman Bob Creighton (R) came in third out of three candidates seeking the Republican line in November’s general election. The other two, incumbent Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) and challenger Lisa M. Inzerillo came in first and second, respectively, all but assuring them Republican spots, according to unofficial Suffolk County Board of Elections results.

By Friday morning, Wehrheim had collected 40.49 percent of the vote — 1,673 total votes — and Inzerillo earned 31.27 percent, or 1,292 total votes. Creighton came in close behind Inzerillo with 27.81 percent — 1,149 votes.

Creighton had focused much of his primary bid on development in Smithtown that he said could attract new business to the community. He has served on the Smithtown Town Board since 2008 and has been a longtime ally of Wehrheim, often aligning with him in critical votes put before the board over recent years.

“There are still some 200-odd absentee ballots to count, but I have no illusions about that,” Creighton said. “I lost — period.”

Creighton said he attributed part of the loss to low voter turnout, with just about seven percent of Smithtown Republicans hitting the polls. The councilman also said he had full intentions of still running on the Independent, Conservative and Reform party lines come November, whether or not absentee ballots salvage his primary bid later next week.

Wehrheim has been on the board since 2003 and said in a previous interview that he would like to use another term to work on funding more projects to revitalize Smithtown’s downtown area. In a phone interview, the councilman said torrential downpours throughout the voting hours on Thursday may have had an impact on voter turnout, which was slightly lower than the average primary.

“I am very pleased with my position as number-one in the race, but I do believe the weather certainly had an affect on the voter turnout,” he said. “The board, as of late, is fairly divided, but I have a long tenure with the town and I will continue to do what I’ve always done. I will go in there, and work on behalf of the Smithtown resident.”

Inzerillo, a business owner from Kings Park, focused her campaign on making Smithtown’s downtown business district more vibrant. She declared victory following Thursday’s vote in a statement, looking forward to discussing the town’s most pressing issues.

“This grassroots campaign, fueled by family and friends, has inspired and humbled me and I am ready to represent the Republican Party in November,” she said.

Both Creighton’s and Wehrheim’s seats on the board will be up for a vote come November, with the incumbents facing off against Inzerillo and Democrat Larry Vetter, who announced his candidacy earlier this year. The winners will join incumbents not up for re-election, Supervisor Pat Vecchio, Councilman Tom McCarthy and Councilwoman Lynne Nowick — all Republicans.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include comments from Councilman Bob Creighton and Councilman Ed Wehrheim.

Gene Cook. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Councilman Gene Cook (I) said he has his eyes on the money — the money of Huntington Town and its taxpayers, that is.

“Huntington doesn’t manage its money properly,” the councilman said, in a sit-down interview at his Greenlawn home. “Coming from the business world, we need good business people in [Town Hall] to manage it correctly.” He believes the amount of money the town has borrowed in long-term bonds is “ridiculous.” Cook said he very rarely votes for bonding.

Cook is seeking re-election for a second term on the town board in November. He’s running with Republican-backed Jennifer Thompson, and he’s running against incumbent Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and contender Keith Barrett.

Cook said he believes the town’s money needs to be spent more wisely. He said he would like to see a forensic audit of the entire town government. When he first entered office, he said, he pushed for such an audit by the state comptroller’s office.

“I’m all about where our money is being spent. When I looked at the books, I was not happy with the way I saw things being done. So I put up legislation to get the state comptroller to come in and audit. I was hoping they would audit all the books.”

The state comptroller’s office only ended up auditing two departments — outside legal services and overtime — and in both, issues were unearthed. Since then, those issues have been addressed.

Cook emerged from his garage to start the interview, where he had been tinkering with his favorite hobby, his cars. He resides at his Arbutus Road home with his wife Lisa. They have five children: Danielle, Nicole, Monica, Brendan and Olivia.

Owner of Cook Industries Inc., a construction company, which was established in 1986, the councilman has learned how to run a fiscally sound business and tries to bring those ideals to the town board as much as possible.

“A lot of business work is right now, it has to get done immediately,” Cook said. He runs his office the same way. “We have to get an answer back to a constituent within 24 hours. I made that a mandate in my office. Good, bad or ugly, even if it’s something the constituent doesn’t want to hear, we have to do that.”

Toni Tepe, chairwoman of the Huntington Republican Committee said Cook is devoted to doing what’s right for the public.

“Gene has shown the public that his interest is doing what is right for them,” Tepe said. “He works for the taxpayers.”

Moving onto other matters facing Huntington Town, Cook spoke about crime in Huntington Station. While Cook said the police force is stretched, he feels there are other ways to beef up security that don’t involve hiring more police.

Cook said he has no problem with development projects requesting changes of zone, like Benchmark Senior Living, a proposed assisted living facility in Huntington, and The Seasons at Elwood, as long as they are handled responsibly and in a smart business fashion. “Lets do proper, smart, development that makes everybody happy.”

But he does not believe that was the case with The Seasons, which is why he voted against it. Cook’s was the sole vote against the 55-and-up condominium project.

“Because of my business background in construction and roadwork, I knew Elwood Road was a problem. It was said [The Seasons] was not going to change the difference of traffic on that road. That’s nonsense. We need people on the board that say wait a minute, lets take a good look at this and see what’s really needed there and what the community wants,” Cook said. “I was the only vote with the people of Elwood.”

He said he felt the same community resistance against Benchmark as well.

“People were there crying to me, saying they don’t want this. We’re supposed to take care of the residents of the town, not developers that come in with big pockets,” he said.

Cook described being the minority on the board as “brutal.” He thinks having Thompson on the town board “would really benefit the people.” Cook hopes to one day have a third member on the board, creating a majority voting bloc.

Bow hunting  of deer in Eaton’s Neck has been a pressing issue for the residents of Eaton’s Neck and Asharoken, and Cook has changed his stance of opposing the measure since the town board public hearing last month on this issue.

“What I like about town board meetings is that you do hear other sides,” he said. “I was unaware of the Lyme disease issue and the tick issue, it was the first time I had heard of that. I may vote for it if it comes up.”

If re-elected, Cook, like his running mate Thompson, hopes to push term limits right away. He said he supports a two-term limit for council members.

“I believe we need term limits,” he said. “For me, what I’ve seen is, the first term you’re learning, second term you’re doing, third term you’re abusing the power. I think we as people need to keep it moving.”

Suffolk Legislator Susan Berland was at the head of changing ban the box legislation. File photo

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) has made the Huntington Town Council her full time job since her inaugural election in 2001. She pledged, when she was first running for election, that she would stop practicing law and dedicate all her time to the board.

“I think the job really deserves that,” she said. “I’m the one who’s in the office, 95 percent of the time, when people come into the office to see a councilmember; I’m the one they get. I do a lot more events than anyone else does because I can and because I want to.”

On Monday, Berland sat down for an interview, at Book Revue in Huntington, to discuss her past achievements on the Huntington Town Board, and her campaign for re-election this November. She had just returned from a weekend away, helping her youngest son move into Yale University for his freshman year. Berland and her husband, Sandy Berland, live in Dix Hills and have four children: Stephanie, Alex, Schuyler and Grant.

“She is a person of action,” John Cooney, commander of Northport American Legion Post 694, said in a phone interview. “Susan has worked tirelessly on behalf of veterans in the community. We hold many different events, and in my 16 years, I have never seen Susan absent from one. I’m proud of what she’s done for this community; she follows through and listens.”

Berland was first elected to replace U.S. Rep. Steve Israel’s (D-Huntington) seat, when he won his seat in the House of Representatives in 2001. She previously worked on Israel’s Town Board campaign, and once he was re-elected, he asked her to work in the town attorney’s office to prosecute code violations.

When she first got into office, Berland moved to make government more transparent.

She said her first piece of legislation the board approved made parts of the town’s government more accessible. The Fair, Open and Accountable Government Act requires the zoning and planning boards to have their meetings in a public hearing room — the town board room at Huntington Town Hall. According to Berland, before she came into office that was not the case.

“I fought for 10 years to get the town’s television channel because I wanted town board meetings to be televised,” she said. “I’m really an advocate of open and accessible government.”

She thinks people need to have access to these meetings.

“If people have the opportunity to watch town board meetings in the comfort of their own homes, they’ll be more inclined to watch it.”

Huntington Town has its share of blighted homes — another issue Berland’s addressed with legislation.

“We don’t have rows and rows of houses that are blighted, we have one on each street,” she said. “They come as a patchwork, but it affects the street it’s on tremendously, and I think that’s important to people.”

In order to fight the blighted houses, Berland’s legislation created a new system that assesses if a house should be put on a townwide blight registry. If the property is added to the list, the owners are hit with a fine from the town and are allotted a certain amount of time to fix the problems with their property. If the owner doesn’t do so before the allotted deadline, the town pays for the cleanup of the property, and the money it costs the town to right all the problems is then added to that property owner’s tax bill.

When speaking to crime in Huntington Station, Berland said, “It’s always good to have cops on the beat.”

“The more they’re in the community and get to know the community, the better it is. For a lot of people, if you know the officer and have a relationship with the officer, I think you’re less likely to do something you shouldn’t do.”

Berland believes that large-scale projects that require a zone change, like The Seasons at Elwood, a 256-unit 55-and-older condo home community, and Benchmark Senior Living, a proposed 69-unit assisted living facility, are not issues of overdevelopment.

“I voted in favor of the Seasons,” she said. “Anytime we can create senior housing, where our seniors stay here and aren’t leaving, I think that’s a benefit. But you have to watch the density numbers.”

She originally voted no to Avalon Huntington Station, because of the number of units they wanted to fit in per acre. When Avalon compromised months later and reduced the number of units, Berland voted yes.

Berland has also been involved in legislation that benefits the youth of Huntington Town. According to Berland, the Huntington Youth Council, which is comprised of students from each of the town’s school districts, meet to discuss issues that affect students today.

When asked about her opponent’s support of term limits, as Berland is seeking her fifth term in office, she said, “the best manifestation of term limits is elections.”

File photo by Rohma Abbas

Working Families Party voters of Huntington Town will get the chance to choose between five town board candidates in a primary election on Sept. 10.

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and candidate Keith Barrett are the two candidates backed by the Working Families party. Charles Marino, Richard Hall and Valerie Stringfellow are also running in the primary.

“The Working Families Party endorsed Keith Barrett and Councilwoman Susan Berland because they’ve demonstrated they share our values and support our key legislative issues like raising the minimum wage and passing paid family leave,” Emily Abbott, the WFP Long Island political director, said in an email. “We have no doubt they will be the best voice for Huntington’s working families.”

Since submitting their names to the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Hall and Stringfellow have both decided not to actively campaign. While their names will still technically be on the ballot, they said they have put their support behind Marino and Barrett, who they believe best support minorities in Huntington Town.

Marino said he is running to bring an end to the corrupt political system in Huntington. “As a registered Working Families Party member who believes in putting workers first, not in lining one’s pockets, I am challenging Ms. Berland in the primary,” Marino said in a statement. Attempts to reach Marino were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Barrett and Berland said they’re the best picks for the WFP line.

“I come from a working family,” Barrett said. “I’m a union guy, a blue-collar worker. I’ve always been in the working guys shoes.”

Barrett is a Huntington native. He went to Walt Whitman High School,and started his own business, Barrett Automotives, in 1997 in Huntington Station. He is currently the town’s deputy director of general services.

Berland, an incumbent who is seeking a fifth term, said she is the only town board member who has been a member of a union during high school and college.

“I’ve passed legislation that helps our town workers,” she said. “I’m very pro-workers and I’m very pro-military. I am a staunch labor and working families supporter.”